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‘Kids have milder symptoms, lower mortality’: AIIMS Covid-19 study

With children between the ages of 15 and 17 years becoming eligible for vaccination January 3 onwards, doctors wanted to study the clinical profile of these patients admitted to the hospital.

Written by Anonna Dutt | Express News Service |
Updated: January 22, 2022 7:50:06 am
Kids in Pune get vaccinated against Covid-19. (Express Photo by Arul Horizon)

Doctors from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) reported milder symptoms and lower mortality among adolescents as compared to adults during the first and the second wave of the pandemic, as per the analysis of 197 patients between the ages of 12 and 18 years admitted to the hospital with Covid-19.

With children between the ages of 15 and 17 years becoming eligible for vaccination January 3 onwards, doctors wanted to study the clinical profile of these patients admitted to the hospital.

The analysis shows that 84.6% of adolescents developed mild disease, 9.1% moderate disease, and 6.3% severe disease. Fever and cough were the most common symptoms, with 14.9% experiencing it. 11.5% of the children had body aches, 10.4% were fatigued, and 6.2% reported shortness of breath, as per the analysis.

In comparison, 50.7% of the adults came in with breathlessness during the second wave as per another study from the same hospital.

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As per the analysis, 7.3% of the children required oxygen support, 2.8% needed non-invasive ventilation or high flow nasal oxygen, and 2.3% needed invasive ventilation. Steroids were given to 24.1% of the children and antiviral medication Remdesivir to 16.9%.

The study observed an in-hospital death rate of 3.1% in this age group, which is six times less than the 19.1% mortality seen among adults in the same hospital during the second wave.

“We have just attempted to present the clinical profile of the adolescents here; this is probably the first such data set from India. So far, we were mainly focusing on symptoms and treatments in adults. What we have seen is that the children admitted during the second wave of the pandemic definitely had more severe disease; the trend is similar to what we saw in adults as well. Also, the mortality is lower in this age group as compared to adults,” said Dr Anant Mohan, the corresponding author of the pre-print study and the head of the department of pulmonology at AIIMS.

Children with solid organ cancers — cancers with tumours — were more likely to develop moderate to severe disease, the analysis found. Although the study looked at other co-morbidities such as asthma, diabetes, coronary artery disease, none of them statistically changed the risk of severe disease in the adolescents.
“What we saw was that symptoms were milder in children than in adults. Even during the current wave, we are hardly reporting any cases in children. As it is, hospital admissions are lower during this wave,” said Dr Sushma Bhatnagar, another author of the analysis and in-charge of the Covid-19 treatment centre at the AIIMS campus in Jhajjar.

With 94% of all adults having received one dose and 72% both the doses in the country, Dr Mohan said, “The vaccine offers an additional layer of protection on top of other Covid-appropriate behaviours. Children may be offered the vaccines same as everybody else when a safe and effective vaccine is approved.”

Currently, children between the ages of 15 and 17 years can only get the Covaxin shot; Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D is approved for children over the age of 12 years but is yet to hit the market.

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